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An Amazing Autumn and Election Leftovers

What a beautiful Autumn we’ve all enjoyed in the West Branch Valley. I don’t believe the weather could have been much better, and the fall colors were amazing. Our furry and feathered creatures of Penns Woods seemed to especially enjoy the season. Whether it was a bald eagle hunting from above, a herd of deer enjoying an afternoon in a sunny field or front lawn, or a bear getting fat for hibernation — God’s green earth has been teaming with activity. Let’s hope that’s not a harbinger of the winter to come.

Just like when I was a kid, it’s always exciting to see the first snowflakes of the season. And baby, it was cold outside at last Friday’s football games. All of this is to be expected as we move towards Thanksgiving, no sensationalism needed as seen on TV.

A tip of my orange Webb Weekly hunting cap with the American flag on the side to Forrest Lehman, Director of Elections and Voter Services for Lycoming County. The implementation of the new paper ballot and scanning process was a smooth success.

Forrest and the folks at Voter Services have a big job every election season. They oversee 85 precincts in Lycoming County. Over 400 Election Day workers man these polling places. Lycoming County Voter Services is responsible for making sure the I’s are dotted, T’s are crossed, and rules are followed from day one of the election process, right up to the final count and certification of the winning candidate.

This past Tuesday, 25,906 Lycoming County residents went to the polls to have their voices heard. That equates to a 38 percent voter turnout, which is a conversation for another day. I will say this, 38 percent have the right to complain, compliment, or say whatever they would like about political issues. If you’re not part of that 38 percent, keep your opinions to yourself. This goes double for those that use social media as a pulpit. Your vote matters and can change things for the good. Social media only creates division and hatred. Again, that’s only my two cents.

I caught up with Director of Elections Lehman this past week. He is truly one of the good guys. I want to share with you his overview of the new voting system and some other election process issues.

First up, evaluating the new ballot and scanning system. Mr. Lehman stated, “I’m very pleased we got through the election with very few issues. Like anything else, you are going to learn and get better with repetition. It took a lot of time, effort, and planning to implement the new system.”

Mr. Lehman added, “I would like to thank all the poll workers, fellow County employees and departments for the extra effort this election season. It is truly a team effort to provide the best service possible for the voters of Lycoming County.”

As far as the 38 percent voter turnout. Mr. Lehman stated that’s about average for recent elections. “I was really pleased with the primary election; we hit 42 percent, but there were some other issues to be decided. I always wish more people voted.”

I’m an old-school person, so the paper ballot and scanning seems perfect to me. It provides a system of checks and balances, and as my Father taught me, there should always be a paper trail, which is something that had been lost to our world of today. As I discussed this with Forrest, I came upon a most interesting fact that he was proud to share with me.

“We are the only county in the state of Pennsylvania that printed their own ballots. The County print shop took care of this effort. The cost to provide the ballots was less than half when compared to what other counties paid.” The longer I talked with Forrest, the more I liked him as he is looking out for the taxpayer of Lycoming County and saving money, my kind of guy.

The final issue we discussed was the high number of write-in candidates for this year’s general election and the actual laws regarding this process. “Pennsylvania is an unrestricted state when it comes to write-in candidates. The current election law was adopted in 1937. Many other states have moved to a registered write-in policy, where the candidate needs to pre-register with Voter Services and announce their intent. This makes the logistics of a write-in candidacy much easier, especially when it comes to counting and certification of the election. The candidate needs to simply file a notice of intention and affidavit with Voter Services to be placed on the ballot.”

This is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed and reformed in Pennsylvania. The State Legislators need to include the thoughts of the Director of Elections from around PA when this occurs.

An issue I would like to see addressed regarding candidates, I will refer to as a one-and-done policy. You can only petition and run for one elected office per election year. This would eliminate a candidate from changing direction after losing in the May election. For example, maybe he ran for County Commissioner and lost the Primary and then launched a write-in campaign for Mayor in November.

If the candidate wants to run a write-in campaign in the general election for a position he lost in May, maybe there is a legitimate reason. A lot can happen between May and November. However, there’s no way a candidate should be allowed to enter another race. This is just bad for the entire election process.

Thank you to Director of Elections Lehman for spending some time with me. If you’re not registered, contact the good folks at Voter Services (570-327-2267) and get registered. There is a big election coming up in 2020.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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